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 Story of the day:

EMMERICH-BEATIFY Jun-16-2004 (520 words) With photos posted Feb. 6, 2004. xxxi
Vatican confirms papal plans to beatify nun who inspired Gibson film

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed that Pope John Paul II plans to beatify a controversial 19th-century nun whose visions helped inspire Mel Gibson to make the movie "The Passion of the Christ."

German Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich will be proclaimed "blessed" along with four others Oct. 3 in a Mass at the Vatican, officials at the Congregation for Saints' Causes told Catholic News Service June 16. Beatification is a major step toward sainthood.

Jewish leaders have criticized the planned beatification, saying it would harm Christian-Jewish relations. They said Sister Emmerich's published visions are anti-Semitic in their negative portrayal of Jews.

Gibson has said he was inspired to make his movie in part by Sister Emmerich's book of visions, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," which added detailed episodes to the Gospel accounts of Christ's suffering and death.

Vatican experts, however, have questioned whether she actually wrote the book; for that reason, they said, the accounts of her visions did not play a part in the decision to beatify her.

Sister Emmerich was practically illiterate, and her visions were written down and elaborated by a popular romantic poet of the time, Clemens Brentano. He published them after Sister Emmerich's death in 1824.

"It is absolutely not certain that she ever wrote this. There is a serious problem of authenticity," said Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, who helped study the issue for the Vatican's Congregation for Saints' Causes.

"Since it was impossible to distinguish what derives from Sister Emmerich and what is embroidery or additions, we could not take these writings as a criteria. Therefore, they were simply discarded completely from all the work for the cause," Father Gumpel told Catholic News Service.

The daughter of a peasant couple, Anne Catherine Emmerich worked as a seamstress and servant before entering an Augustinian convent in 1802 at age 28. Frail and pious, she became known for her ecstasies, visions of the supernatural and "conversations" with Jesus.

After she became bedridden in 1813 she developed the stigmata -- bleeding wounds corresponding to those of the crucified Christ. A church investigation pronounced the wounds genuine. Ill for many years until her death at age 49, she offered up her suffering for the souls in purgatory.

On June 7, the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League urged church leaders to think twice about beatification plans for Sister Emmerich.

"We respect the fact that beatification is entirely within the realm of the church and we understand that Sister Emmerich has been proposed in recognition of her virtuous life and how she strengthened others in faith despite her own ill health," said a letter by Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

"Yet it cannot be contested that, in addition to the aid she offered many of her coreligionists, hatred and anti-Semitism were fomented in her name," Foxman said.

Among the others the pope will beatify during the Oct. 3 Mass is Emperor Charles I, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who died in 1922. The Vatican believes his reign was inspired by the social teaching of the church.


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